Police-Free Schools – Organizational Statement by Tzil Sandoval and Dan Ophardt
TeamChild fundamentally believes that young people have the power and the right to experience unconditional belonging in schools, at home, and in their communities. As an agency we have seen the ways in which police in schools and neighboring communities have negatively impacted the futures of young people. The severity of this impact has been significantly higher for Black youth and other youth of color. The historical foundation of police within our society has never fully been addressed, so their racist and biased policies have spilled into the ways they function within any space they occupy. Therefore, we do not believe that police contribute to safety in schools. We believe that young people should feel safe at school and for many youth and families in this country, police and School Resource Officers (SROs) in schools do not make them feel safer and often contribute to the systemic pushout of Black students and other students of color.
TeamChild has spoken on its alignment with the Black Lives Matter movement and this furthers that agreement. The Movement for Black Lives states, “We demand investments in the education, health and safety of Black people, instead of investments in the criminalizing, caging, and harming of Black people. We want investments in Black communities, determined by Black communities, and divestment from exploitative forces including prisons, fossil fuels, police, surveillance and exploitative corporations.” As an organization we grapple with the nuances of what it means to withdraw SROs from schools, but believe that their presence is neither a necessity nor an ideal way to create feelings of safety or security. Instead, we move towards educating ourselves in the long-standing, community driven solutions and proposals. Such proposals demand that we move funds away from school and police partnerships. Therefore room is left for investment into communities and students. While we understand that this is not an overnight process, we must, at the very least, engage in conversations grounded in youth and community proposals to alternatives. We must work to shift power to community review, legislation, and management of all matters in public schools. As an organization we believe in centering youth, especially Black youth and other youth of color- which requires that we shift power to them when having conversations and making decisions that will directly impact them. This is no different when discussing alternatives to school police.
We have committed time and time again to this practice and we will continue to do so, as the communities we serve deserve no less from us or any agency that is dedicated to serving them.